Volume 12 - Travel Guitar Rebuild

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice


                                             Stay in Tune                                                    Vol.# 12

                                                                                                      By Luthier Patrick Podpadec


Well were back again! I always love it when someone comes into my shop and has a project or an idea for an instrument. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. . Sometimes the thing that the customer is asking me to do cannot be performed on the instrument in question. It would be easier for me to build another instrument instead of reconfiguring the old one. Such is the case with my latest endeavor. But since I’m the one who likes a challenge, I guess I will have to suck it up and start to look outside the box on this one.

    A customer brought me a small Yamaha travel guitar. It is a very neat full scale instrument It has a single pole pickup with a under the saddle transducer pickup in the bridge. It has a small toggle switch to change from one pickup to the other or blend them together. I love the way it was designed. They only have three small pieces of wood to make the whole thing. The neck (which is headless) is the largest piece. Another small square piece with the center cut out of it to house the tuning machines is mounted on the back so as not to get in the way of the pickups. Another small piece that is removable houses the knobs, switch and output jack. A very simple design. Especially from a manufacturing stand point. My problem lies in the fact that the customer would like to change the single pole pickup with a humbucker or something with a little less treble and add another humbucker in the “neck position”. And “Oh” by the way “I would like to have a wammy bar too” he says to me. And I would like to have the knobs switch and output jack to be mounted permanently to the bottom of the guitar too . Do you think you could do that? He says………… Why “sure” I said, with a little hesitation. All I have to do now is figure out how I’m going to go about it. It’s ok with the customer to change anything I want on the guitar (adding or subtracting wood ) so at least I have that going for me. The problem that I ‘m up against is that there is no room on this guitar to do anything with. I believe I can remove the bridge with the transducer pickup in it and replace it with a type of bridge that was on the older Fender Mustangs that have a small curved piece of bent spring steel that works like a whammy bar. It doesn’t take up a lot of real estate and  doesn’t require any routing out of the body like other tremolo systems do I think it will work in this situation. One problem solved . Now onto the the single pole pickup can easily enough be replaced with a humbucker but I will have to rout out just a little more wood to make it fit ,but I believe I have enough room for that. With cutting the body and adding a small differently shaped piece I think I will be able to mount the electrical hardware( knobs, switch, and output jack ) to the body. The only thing tat is giving me a major concern is the “neck position” pickup. I simply do not have enough room on the body in that area to mount a traditional style humbucker. I may have to resort to having to build a custom pickup. I will be honest. Although I have a limited amount of knowledge on the subject That will be my first attempt at that. I have not had the reason or need to have to do it up until now. I’m not afraid to ask for help in this region, so if anybody has any suggestions I can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I will be keeping you all informed on my progress with this new endeavor so be sure to check back in next week to find out how I’m gonna do this.

      Before I go I wanted to add a little follow up to the last article I wrote about the guitar that I am starting for a guitar show down in Miami Florida in April. So far I have started the blueprint for the guitar. Some people would do this on a cad program on the computer ,but I prefer to do it the old fashion way of a  full size mechanical drawing. It gives me the opportunity to make all my mistakes on paper first and gives me a good feel of what looks right in the proper dimensions. As I mentioned in the last article I will be using a very nice set of East Indian Rosewood for the back and sides and a laminated neck made from birdseye maple with a rosewood strip in the middle. I’m going to use Sperzel tuners. (did you know there made in Cleveland?). So far I’m leaning towards using a black ebony fingerboard with a matching bridge.  I’m not yet determined the purfling layout yet, but I’m  set on using some blue in there somewhere. The binding will most likely be curly maple. I will be using a high gloss nitrocellouse lacquer finish . Well , wish me luck and I will wish you some back ! Thanks again for reading .Till Next Time!

                                                                                                                   Thanks again!
                                                                                                        Patrick from Wood-n- Strings